British Library celebrates 1,000 years of civil rights

Britain’s thousand year struggle for civil liberties and freedoms is explored in a major new exhibition at the British Library.

Taking Liberties: The struggle for Britain’s Freedoms and Rights (31 October 2008–1 March 2009, admission free) is guest-curated by Linda Colley, Professor of History at Princeton University, gives visitors an opportunity, and celebrates the forgotten pioneers who helped win the liberties many of us now take for granted.

The exhibition includes iconic and rarely seen documents and objects that have defined the political and social life as we know it in today’s Britain.

Alongside the more obvious and famous items such as Magna Carta and the death warrant of Charles I are more intimate documents such as the prison diary of suffragette Olive Wharry.

The exhibition seeks to make the connection between the historical struggle and contemporary issues and visitors will have the chance to vote in an interactive game that is related to each of the seven zones of the exhibition before seeing how their opinions on critical topics such as CCTVs, DNA databases, stop and search powers, monarchy, student fees and euthanasia compare to those of the rest of the visitors in-gallery and online.

Video contributions from prominent activists such as Peter Tatchell and Shami Chakrabarti feature throughout the exhibition and will inspire visitors to think about what rights and freedoms – or the lack of them – mean in today’s world, highlighting the fact that the 1,000-year fight still continues today.

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